Thursday, June 12, 2014

*BOOK REVIEW & EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW* Within Temptation by: Tanya Holmes + Giveaway ~Blog Tour~

Title: Within Temptation (Sons of Temptation, #1)
Author: Tanya Holmes
ASIN: B00K91U118
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Romantic Mystery/Romantic Suspense
Length: 350 pages
Binding: Ebook; Paperback
Published: 9th May 2014
Buy: Amazon , B&N


Love, betrayal and murder in a small town…

Twelve years after her mother's murder, Shannon Bradford fears she may have helped convict an innocent man. Even worse, her prominent family may have had something to do with it. Desperate for answers, she seeks help from the one person least likely to give it. Her best friend and childhood crush, Trace Dawson. The man she sent to prison.

Serving hard time for murder has left Trace angry and bitter. As far as he's concerned, digging into the past won't replace the years he's lost or erase the hell he's lived. Now that he's free, Shannon Bradford tops his list of bad memories. But he never counted on falling in love.

Set in a sleepy little town during the dead of winter, this award-winning romance novel is a tale of one woman's quest for truth and a man's struggle to forgive.

My Rating:

The fascinating thing about being an avid reader is just when you think you've read every kind of story imaginable, one will totally creep up and catch you by surprise. I went into reading Within Temptation thinking it was going to be an erotic contemporary romance mixed in with a little "whodunit"/suspense. What it actually turned out to be is a well crafted mystery, and the romance/love story was the icing on the cake. While this may sound like a turn off to those readers looking for a hot romance, don't let my words discourage you. Within Temptation is one of those novels that has it all; I just wasn't expecting the mystery aspect of the story to be what captivated me more than the actual romance.

Shannon Bradford and Trace Dawson have history...a connection thought dead and buried when she accused him of murdering her mother that puts him in prison for 12 years. But on the very day of his release, the two come face to face, and while he is bitter and she is wondering if she made the right call all those many years ago, it is quite obvious the flame between them is still there. The author does a great job building sexual chemistry between Trace and Shannon. Rather than tons of sex scenes, Holmes uses some really hot "close encounters", a few self stimulation sessions (wink wink) that packed plenty of heat. I was really surprised that the couple didn't actually hit the sack until about the last 90 pages of the book (kindle/e-book pages) and I was absolutely okay with it. I think it is a fine art when an author can maintain sexual tension throughout the majority of a story before a major sex scene happens.

"You don't know the first thing about humility."
"Yes, 'really'. You're too full of yourself."
A slow, wicked grin eased across his lips. "Maybe so. But I'd bet the farm you wouldn't mind being full of me too."

Trace was a very interesting hero. Intense, bitter, angry, sexually frustrated. Combine all of those things with a rough childhood and 12 years in the joint, and you have yourself a deeply layered character. Known as the "Butcher Boy" by the whole town, I really felt for him as he tried to adjust back into society.

Many romantic mysteries are very predictable but I must give Tanya Holmes credit--I was clueless until the very end.  Every time I thought I had it figured out, someone else would start to look like a prime suspect. The story is so well written that it is extremely difficult for me to believe this is not only a debut novel, but that Holmes is considered an indie author. The caliber of her writing is right up there with veteran romance authors and it's quite shocking that this novel hasn't been picked up by a major publishing company. I suspect that this won't last long considering the crazy buzz Within Temptation is getting.

I can't move on until I mention another interesting aspect of the novel which is the many themes that I came across while reading the story-- child abuse, mental illness, fear of aging, suppressed memory, hypnosis. With any other writer this could have been a hot mess. I've read plenty of books where authors try to cram pack so many topics that it becomes hard to focus on what the true purpose of the story is. Holmes weaves these themes in seamlessly like a pro.

While I am a huge fan of Within Temptation, there were a few things that bothered me. Overall, I liked Shannon and as her story unfolds, my sympathy grew--I am being vague so I can stay away from spoilers. However, her wishy washy attitude towards Trace annoyed me after awhile. Once she realizes that she may have made a mistake in accusing him of her mother's murder, it's like she expects him to just forgive her and jump at the chance to work with her to help clear his name. Trace spent TWELVE years in the prison! I think he has a right to be a mad, bitter, pissed off, even if it wasn't technically her fault.

Another thing that didn't seem realistic is the timeline. Trace went to prison when he was 18-- yet he was a stripper, became an expert on dance, taught dance lessons in prison, knows how to work on cars, knows how to renovate a whole house, has several associates degrees (that he worked on while he was in the joint) -- how the hell did he learn all these things by 18 (aside from the associate degrees)? Especially while in high school and with an abusive childhood? Maybe if the author gave us some more background information on how he learned these skills, it would have been more believable.

Lastly, again, Trace spent 12 years in prison but comes out and suffers no kind of PST. After watching shows like RECTIFY--about a man who serves 19 years on death row for the murder of his high school girlfriend and later is released upon new DNA evidence--I became more aware of how traumatic it can be for inmates as they struggle to acclimate back into society after serving years in prison. Yes, the author does a good job of showing how the town reacts to Trace's release, calling him "Butcher Boy" and ostracizing him and the people that support him. However, it would have been more realistic if he had some kind of symptoms of PST, perhaps nightmares or panic attacks.

Within Temptation is a smartly written mystery romance with plenty of nail biting suspense that keeps you riveted until the very end. I think this quote I found sums up the romance aspect of the novel: "The sexual tension is high, and the burn is slow. Sex is character-driven, rather than plot-driven."  While there were a few minor issues dealing mostly with Trace and the believability of his many, many skills, the story is quite remarkable, especially when you have to keep reminding yourself that it was written by a debut author. Read below for my exclusive interview with Tanya Holmes.

best wishes,mia


The beginning notes of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" filled the silence. He nudged my chin up with a finger, and what I saw stole my breath. His eyes burned. Instinct made me back away until a wall appeared out of nowhere, and just as he'd done at the garage, he moved in on me. His muscles expanded when he rested his forearm above my head to box me in. Unlike the wall at my back, the wall of muscle in front of me didn't hold me steady, and the more I stared at it, the weaker I became. Trace touched my mouth with his fingertip, pressing past the barrier of my lips until my teeth parted. My breath rushed in on a gasp as he penetrated and explored. All the while, he stared down at me, his intent sure. Before I could stop myself, I'd sucked and drawn his finger in deeper. He swore softly and his nostrils flared. After I realized what I'd done, I shamefully jerked my head away, dislodging him, but the seductive taste and feel of him remained.

"Look at me," he commanded.

I obeyed, giving in to the carnal awareness whittling my breath down to short, audible pants. My heart stopped once he lifted his glistening finger and sucked it into his mouth. He kept his eyes trained on me while he lowered his hand to my lips and reverently painted his wetness across them. His chest expanded when I sampled his gift: warmth, sweetness, and fire. That's how he tasted. Like heaven and hell, darkness and light.

He hadn't kissed me, yet I knew his touch. Hadn't swept his tongue inside, yet I knew his taste. Hadn't done anything except toy with my mouth, but in my imagination he'd done everything and then some. Heat scalded my loins, made me ache so badly I wanted to cry, and like clockwork, the rain came, salving the blaze with a weepy dampness familiar to every woman.

"Please, j-just let me leave," I begged.

He shook his head as if to say, No mercy.

I couldn't breathe. "Trace...I'm scared."

"I know." He slowly cradled my jaw. "Me too."

Author Interview

1. Within Temptation is one of the best mystery romances I have ever read, mostly because it kept me guessing until the big reveal. What inspired you to write this story?

​Trace Dawson, actually. He (the hero in Within Temptation) came to me fully formed. I knew this guy from day one.

So where did he come from? What shaped his personality and circumstances? In looking back, I can think of several direct influences.

Book-wise, I'd say my biggest inspirations were Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence and Catherine Cookson's The Moth. Both novels have an upper class/lower class H/h pairing that produced very juicy conflicts. These are characters who see the world through different eyes because they live in completely different worlds, yet their hearts come together despite these societal road blocks.

Other influences include film and TV. I'm a movie buff and I totally use actors for character inspiration. This is why I love movies, (especially older ones) because they provide a great creative well to drink from. For instance, Clive Owen's BMW Films' character was the physical model for Trace, but that evolved over time to the point where I began adding certain physical traits and personality ticks from various actors. I also started piecing together plot ideas.

There was a film called Captives starring Tim Roth and Julia Ormond. Roth played the bad boy convict to Ormand's good girl. The differences between him and Trace Dawson are stark, especially when it comes to what Roth's character was convicted of (and admitted to doing)---but Roth's edginess intrigued me. He had a dark and gritty intensity in his performance that I wanted to capture on the page.

​Another film that inspired me was Past Midnight starring Rutger Hauer and the late Natasha Richardson. This was a romantic suspense movie about a man convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Hauer's portrayal of the socially awkward ex-con was very nuanced, in that, although he had a darkness about him, he also had a sweetness that Tim Roth's character lacked. So that's what I drew from for Trace's softer side.

And finally, there's Disney's Sleeping Beauty & Snow White. The whole evil queen/evil step-mother thing fascinated me because I always wondered what motivated them. With Snow White's villainess, vanity seemed to be her driving force, but it was a tad too one dimensional for me. They never really explained her deeper motivations. You know, like why was she so vain? What happened in her life to shape her unstable personality? Same with the villainess in Sleeping Beauty.

After giving it some thought, I came up with: Fear of rejection. Fear of growing old. A need for control and a flawed sense of self-worth. Those seemed to be the likely deeper motivations for both Disney villainesses. And that's what I used to create Lilith. So as you can see, Within Temptation is a patchwork quilt of various influences. 

2. I was really surprised at the many themes I came across while reading Within Temptation--child abuse, mental illness, fear of aging, suppressed memory, hypnosis-- why did you incorporate these specific themes into the story? Were any of them written because of personal experience?

The seed for this story began as a study in class distinctions, and how the heart is blind to them, but that wasn't enough. I needed more.

Then Trace showed up.

I remember writing the initial draft of the first chapter in one sitting, feeling everything he felt. He was an angry, bitter ex-con who'd just been released from prison---that's all I had initially. So I had to figure out what he was so angry about. Sure being in prison can make you bitter, but his rage went deeper than that. It was all consuming. A character interview (which I usually don't do) provided the answer. That's when he told me Shannon had betrayed him in the worst possible way.

As for personal experience, sure. Like most people, I know what betrayal and disappointment feels like. That was enough to get the creative juices flowing. The only other theme that I could directly relate to was the aging thing. There's a flashback scene with 40-year-old Lilith where she takes issue with a life insurance commercial. Well, that actually happened to me. :-)

It was about 1 or 2 in the morning and I was watching a really awful Dracula movie when this life insurance commercial came on. I was like, really? Who the heck wants to think about that before they go to bed? lol It was surreal, and left an indelible impression on me. So I used it for Lilith and added a ton of crazy.

3. At the end of Within Temptation, you tease us with a sneak peak of Temptation's Edge, book 2 in the Sons of Temptation series which can be read as a standalone. When can fans expect this next installment? Do you know how many more books are planned in the Sons of Temptation series?

​I'm currently writing Book 2 (Temptation's Edge). It's got a tentative 2015 release date. Unlike Within Temptation, which is romantic suspense, Temptation's Edge will be a straight contemporary romance.

The third book in the trilogy (Beyond Temptation) will also be a contemporary romance. The hero's name is Declan Michael North (Dex for short), but that could change. What I know so far is that he's British, rich, very cheeky, and he's an ex-porn star turned serious actor. I also know his troubled backstory and his secret agenda.

So what possible connection does an ex-porn star (and a Brit to boot) possibly have with Temptation, West Virginia?

Stay tuned. :-) ​

About the Author

Tanya Holmes is a former Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist, a recipient of the Maggie Award, the MICA Award, as well as Overall Winner of the Sandy Haddad Award and a two-time finalist and one-time winner of The Emily (Best of the Best). She's happily married with children and loves reading, writing and a good cup of coffee---but not necessarily in that order. Her debut novel, Within Temptation was released on May 12, 2014.

Connect With Tanya


Three Grand Prize winners (U.S. Only)

Winner A 
Signed copy of Within Temptation 
Within Temptation pen 
Within Temptation rack card 
Within Temptation magnet 
Poison perfume-scented hanky 
 Playing For Keeps by Jamie Denton, paperback 
Skin Deep by Megan D. Martin, ebook

Winner B 
Signed copy of Within Temptation 
Within Temptation pen 
Within Temptation magnet 
Within Temptation keychain 
Within Temptation rack card 
The Matchmaker by Jamie Denton, paperback 
Drowning in Rapture by Megan D. Martin, ebook

Winner C 
Signed copy of Within Temptation 
Within Temptation rack card 
Within Temptation keychain 
Within Temptation magnet 
Sample of Poison perfume by Dior 
Paving Paradise by Nerika Parke, e-book 
Dead Stop by Jamie Denton, paperback

a Rafflecopter giveaway

good luck,mia


  1. Great review and interview Mia!
    How is life going on??? I'm sorry I've been MIA, it's just that between work and classes I'm out of time and missing my bed.
    Hope everything is ok.

    1. Hey, Ruty!

      Never apologize, my dear. I have been going crazy with end of the year exams and trying to get grades in, so trust me, I completely understand!

      I haven't had time to stop over and see what's going on at your blog. I plan to rectify that once this week is over!

      Don't work too hard! xoxo